One of the concepts that I want to explore on this blog is how to be creative for your entire life. What I am calling “creative sustainability.”
So much of our creative training, whether art school, drama school, music school etc (and since I went to all three, I think I have an idea of how they work) teach you with a model which suggests that ‘success,’ however that is defined, is achieved swiftly after your training. Once ‘success’ has been attained, it is assumed that luck will just keep you hovering away at the upper levels for the rest of your career.
This might happen to 1% of people but this model doesn’t work for the other 99%. They are the ones who don’t take off like a bolt right out of the gate. Maybe they don’t get picked up by an agent, or maybe their agent drops them after a year or two. Maybe they don’t get that solo showing or get accepted into the young artist training programme. Some would think that this is a natural weeding process and it means these people should accept defeat and allow their artistic goals and aspirations to wither on the vine. I don’t agree with this.
Just as sustainability has become a big issue in business – how can businesses use resources in a way that is sustainable to allow for the business to be successful over a long time frame, rather than short term thinking? Likewise, I think we need to start turning with a sustainable eye towards creative careers and equipping creative people with long term vision and the skills to plan their lives beyond the next two or three years. Relying more on harnessing and planning how resources will be used rather than relying on luck.
What resources am I speaking about?
Time – How do we manage our time so that we can continue to give time to our art over years?
Money – how do we manage our money so that we have the necessary funds to fuel our careers? Art making costs money and you need to plan over a long horizon to have money available to invest in your creativity
Energy – art making takes energy in the form of concentration and often long hours. We need to manage our energy so that we don’t tire ourselves out in other areas of our life in order to save something for being creative. Likewise, it’s easy to go on creative binges where we use up vast reserves of creative energy and leave ourselves with nothing to manage the rest of our life.
Relationships – often art thrives when it has colleagues. Many of us do our best work in collaboration with others, but those relationships needs to be managed with clear understandings and expectations. We need to know when the collaboration starts and also when it ends so we can be clear about boundaries.
A creative career is the short term, fresh out of college, make-it-or-break-it mentality which we are often encouraged to pursue. A creative life takes a 40 year perspective instead of a 3 year perspective and says, “what I am is a creative. I will be creative as long as I can, so how do I plan and manage my life to ensure that I have the capacity to continue to be creative as long as I choose?”
A creative career often leads to burnout. Those that ‘make it’ often struggle to deal with the success and its demands. Those that don’t ‘make it’ give up in failure. The net result is very few people continuing to honour their artistic impulse.
A creative life is a commitment to doing what is necessary to carve a space for creativity in your life for the long haul. It leads to slow but steady progress. It also leads to peace and an honouring of the artist within.
We’ll look at more ideas in relation to creative sustainability.